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Landing a big promotion at Discovery …

It’s apparently Shark Week over at the Discovery Channel — we knew before turning on our television because there’s a big inflatable shark sticking out of the Silver Spring, Maryland, headquarters building of its parent company, Discovery Communications (DISCA), not far from the footnoted Washington bureau.

One feature of Shark Week is a handy shark-attack survival guide — never mind that sharks may suffer from something of a bad rap. But it turns out at least one executive at Discovery knows a thing or two about survival in another fraught environment: swimming with the big fishes in the corporate boardroom. Bruce Campbell just got promoted to chief development officer at Discovery Communications, and secured some nice terms along the way, judging from the 8-K that Discovery filed recently.

For one thing, while extending his contract to August 1, 2014, the promotion bumps Campbell’s salary up to an even $1 million, after $50,000 annual increases — required under his employment contract — took him from $850,000 since the end of 2008. The new job also sets his bonus target at 90% of salary, up from 75%, though of course he can earn more (as he did last year, with an $814,374 bonus of about 91% of his annual salary). Campbell also is slated to get $400,000 in restricted stock units that will vest as he or the company hit undisclosed performance targets (the company said a board subcommittee would set them when he actually gets the units).

If he should ever be fired for cause — conviction of or guilty plea to a felony, “conduct constituting embezzlement, material misappropriation or fraud,” willful misconduct in his job, and so on — he’s barred from competing with Discovery for a year. It’s a pretty broad ban, too, preventing him from doing

“any work on, related to, or respecting non-fiction television programming or engag[ing] in any activities on behalf of any company or any entity related to nonfiction television programming services for distribution to cable, satellite and/or other multi-channel distribution platforms.”

By contrast, if the company just shows him the door without “cause,” or if he leaves for any of a laundry-list of itemized reasons (including demotion, being assigned to report to someone other than the chief executive, or being transferred outside the New York area), he’s not bound by any of those strictures.

But he would get paid his salary for at least a year — and potentially through August 1, 2014, if that’s longer — plus his bonus for that year, and the company picks up health-care costs for 18 months (or through August 1, 2014, if longer). He gets the same bill of goodies if the company simply decides not to renew his contract when it expires in four years.

It’s not exactly Man vs. Wild, and sitting down to negotiate with a corporate board doesn’t quite compete with watching a hungry hammerhead bearing down on you. But in the circumstances, Campbell didn’t do half bad. Then again, neither have Discovery Communications shareholders.

Image source: paulidin via Flickr

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